Dear Members of the Carleton Community,
As you are probably aware, many colleges and universities whose fall terms extend into December have been experiencing the impact of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. News about the rapid spread of the virus at Cornell University in New York in particular has led to many colleges adjusting their return-to-campus plans. We too are working closely with our consulting epidemiologist to monitor and model the emerging data, and making plans for how we will respond to what is expected to be a greater on-campus infection rate than we’ve experienced before.
Carleton continues to plan for an in-person Winter Term, with classes beginning as scheduled on Wednesday, Jan. 5. With our vaccine and booster requirements, as well as our well-practiced strategies in testing, isolation and contact tracing, we feel confident that we can continue to have an in-person living and learning experience this winter. Nevertheless, our ability to do so depends on all of us taking specific actions to protect our community over the next several weeks.
Our primary goal is to minimize infection, and limit transmission and spread of the virus on campus. We were able to successfully achieve this in the fall with limited impacts on the overall Carleton experience. As we face a more transmissible variant of the virus this winter, we are implementing stricter mitigation strategies for the start of the term. These strategies are designed to manage an increased level of infection based on the preliminary evidence that individuals who are fully vaccinated and boosted experience mild illness.
All students are expected to get a rapid test for COVID-19 no more than 24 hours prior to returning to campus. This is a change from our previous expectation that tests be taken within 72 hours. While this shift may be an inconvenience, shortening the testing window is one additional step we can take to detect the virus before it arrives on campus and impacts others. Many states and retailers (such as Walgreens and CVS) offer rapid testing, and the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test can be purchased online or in stores and administered at home. Testing supplies may become strained in the coming weeks, so ordering tests now for delivery is recommended. Positive results must be reported to Carleton.
The first round of baseline testing will be held Jan. 3-6, and the second round will be conducted the week of Jan. 10. This shortens the window between baseline tests to one week instead of two. This change was made at the recommendation of our consulting epidemiologist due to the apparent quicker spread of Omicron compared to other variants. Quickly identifying and isolating infection is among the most important strategies we have in responding to the pandemic. Instructions on how to sign up for your first baseline test were sent by email last week.
Random surveillance testing will take place the weeks of Jan. 17, 24 and 31. In combination with two rounds of baseline testing, this means we will test a statistically significant portion of our campus community for each of the first five weeks of the term. The results of these tests will inform the mitigation strategies we deploy beginning in February. Routine testing of in-season athletes and individuals working in high-risk settings will continue.
Rapid testing will continue to be available for symptomatic individuals and close contacts of positive cases. The Carleton Rapid Test Site will reopen in Burton 003 on Monday, Jan. 3, with testing available seven days a week.
Masks are required to be worn in all indoor public spaces on campus, effective immediately. Masks should be well-fitted with multiple layers of tightly woven, breathable fabric, and must cover both your mouth and your nose. You are not required to be masked when alone in your private, enclosed workspace or while in your residential room with your roommate(s). This masking requirement will be revisited following the completion of our initial five weeks of testing.
Students are expected to be especially cautious during social gatherings, and to be masked, even in casual environments. Unmasked social gatherings have consistently been a leading cause of infection on our campus, and social gatherings appear to have driven the rapid case growth of the Omicron variant at Cornell after Thanksgiving. Being especially cautious during these interactions can reduce the number of people impacted by a positive case.
Visitors continue to be welcome on campus with some restrictions. Those who will be dining or attending indoor public events on campus are expected to be fully vaccinated and boosted or to have received a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 24 hours before their visit. While most visitors are not required to be vaccinated in order to spend time on the Carleton campus, those who are staying overnight are required to be fully vaccinated and boosted.
IMPORTANT REMINDER: Proof of your booster dose—including a photo of your vaccination card—is required to be submitted to Carleton by completing the new reporting forms linked below no later than Friday, Jan. 21. All students, faculty and staff are required to take this step, even if you previously reported your vaccination and booster using our old form prior to Dec. 7.
Do not wait until the last minute to satisfy this requirement. Get your booster as soon as possible.
>>> Student COVID-19 Vaccination Reporting Form
>>> Faculty and Staff COVID-19 Vaccination Reporting Form
Like you, we are disappointed that the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated yet another adjustment in our plans. However, these efforts to limit transmission and spread of the virus will be essential to our ability to maintain in-person classes and other activities.
Whether you are on campus or off, we thank you for taking care to protect yourself and the health and safety of others. Best wishes for a safe and healthy holiday break and New Year.
The COVID-19 Core Team
Carolyn H. Livingston, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students
Eric Runestad, Vice President and Treasurer
Elise Eslinger, Vice President and Chief of Staff
Eric Egge, Associate Dean of the College
John Bermel, Director of Security and Emergency Management
Helen Clarke, Director of Digital Strategy and Public Affairs